Kevin Cramer Would Like Heidi Heitkamp to Stop Bragging About Her Relationship With Donald Trump

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., was called to the podium in Bismarck in May 2016 by presidential candidate Donald Trump, who cited Cramer's energy expertise and early backing in his quest for the Republican Party nomination for president. File photo by Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

Maybe the most interesting nugget about North Dakota’s U.S. Senate race in this Washington Examiner article is the reporting of an internal poll which apparently shows Congressman Kevin Cramer up six points over incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp.

More on that in a moment.

The headline from the article is that Cramer apparently paid a visit to the White House asking them for more support. Though, reading the article, I’m not sure it’s so much a call for more support as request that Trump neutralize Heitkamp’s use of him in her campaign.

A week ago Heitkamp’s campaign released a radio ad (audio here) in which she touts how often she votes with Trump. She said she “worked with President Trump to get rid of unnecessary EPA regulations.”

“When I agree with the President, I vote with him, and that’s over half my votes,” Heitkamp continued.

That’s an accurate claim. According to FiveThirtyEight.com, Heitkamp has voted with Trump about 55 percent of the time, though that’s more than 18 percentage points less than the least friend Republican Senator (Rand Paul) who votes with Trump almost 74 percent of the time.

But if Heitkamp is going to invoke friendliness with Trump as a way to ingratiate herself with largely pro-Trump voters in North Dakota, what better way to rebut it than to have Trump himself fire back?

Which is what I imagine Cramer and his people were doing in this meeting:

Rep. Kevin Cramer wants more help from President Trump as he accelerates his bid to oust Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.

The Republican congressman delivered that message on Friday during a White House meeting with political director Bill Stepien to discuss his Senate campaign, GOP sources tell the Washington Examiner. Cramer led Heitkamp by approximately 6 percentage points in recent internal polling, and Republicans are confident about his prospects.

But Cramer, heavily recruited by Trump, has been irked by the close cooperation between Heitkamp and the White House on some major issues. Cramer wants the president to provide a more demonstrable show of support for his candidacy in North Dakota, along the lines of a fundraiser or rally.

The tone of the article makes it sound like Cramer is whining. And maybe he is. Or maybe that characterization is a product of the political filters this story comes to us through.

What I think this illustrates is the fundamental weakness in Heitkamp’s “I’m pro-Trump” argument. It’s not going to work if Trump himself engages in the race on Cramer’s side, which he almost certainly will at some point this year.

But back to that internal polling, I don’t know much about it. And it is internal polling which you always have to take with a grain of salt. But I will say that it certainly feels right what with the trend lines on Heitkamp’s approval numbers in Morning Consult’s polling:

Heitkamp has gone from 60 percent approval in July of last year to 44 percent through last month. Given that trend, it wouldn’t surprise me at all that Cramer is up six points.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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